Annual Dinner & Awards Presentation

The Department of Geography
Hunter College of the City University of New York
2015 Annual Dinner and Awards Presentation

~~ Welcoming Remarks ~~
Marianna Pavlovskaya
Professor and Interim Chair
Department of Geography

Good evening everyone!

Hope you all have gotten your drink and found a good company. I am told that I am supposed to first comment on the weather and the weather was fabulous today. I took a walk across Central Park and it was sunny and pleasantly warm - exactly as my weather app told me this morning.

Why are commenting on the weather? Because we are geographers and we are in America. Americans obsess about weather.

But in Russia, for example, (and I am Russian) things are different. Russians accept all kinds of weather with a grain of fatalism because in the end it does not matter whether the weather was fabulous or miserable. In fact, we have no control over the weather, it comes from nature. It should be simply accepted with gratitude. There is no point obsessing over it.

But - we would say today - weather is not climate! And even if Russians would not obsess about their weather while Americans definitely would, it is clear that we all should obsess about climate change!

That could be a conversation between Obama and Putin - finally leading to some understanding.


Moving forward fast - the dinner is waiting!

We are infinitely grateful to Society of Woman Geographers who support our best female graduate students with increasingly generous awards. Thanks and welcome to Monica Barnes and Susan Leonard representing SWG.

Many thanks to Miriam and Saul Cohen for their continued support of our most ambitious student researchers. They are not here today but we extend our greetings to them.

Many thanks to the veterans of our department who keep joining us and support us financially. Some of them are here - Charlie Heatwole and his partner Debbie, Tony Grande and his partner Susan, Ella Shapiro.

I see many alumni here. Thank you for being with us tonight.

Many thanks to all faculty, permanent and adjunct, staff, and the students who came here.

State of the department address

A few words about the state of the department.

First of all Thank you all for the honor and opportunity to lead the department this year.

It was a steep learning curve for sure but the year was rewarding. I was great to learn that the Departmental Chairs stand strong at Hunter College and can indeed change things to the better.

It was great to realize that caring about the department and its people can have tangible outcomes.

It was great to see that together we can do a lot of things!

This past year our department - with the effort of all of you - was able to improve itself as follows:

In the area of departmental governance

  • our P&b (personnel and budget committee) acted as a key decision maker in all major questions. Thanks to the p&b members for their time and service
  • We increased transparency and consistency in workload assignment and giving faculty credit for teaching, advising students, administration, and research.
  • We instituted a mechanism for allocation of unsponsored research release time in order to boost research productivity.
  • We also promoted shared governance by reviving and forming committees.

In the area of curriculum development and teaching

The department made key improvements in the Environmental Studies major and related minors. This major is doing great.

  • The new undergraduate research methods course was launched.
  • We have also brought to fruition the new Masters of Science in GeoInformatics. This is a truly collaborative effort by our GIS faculty. Carson Farmer wrote the letter of intent last year and this year the whole team developed an excellent full proposal. On Monday Jochen Albrecht (our curriculum representative) and I will present it to Hunter Senate.
  • I expect the program to begin in the fall of 2016.
  • We have been fortunate to work with many outstanding undergraduate and graduate students and it is a great pleasure to honor them tonight (after we eat dinner)

We have a great new website

  • thanks to Amy Jeu, our webmaster, for making it visually pleasing and functionally useful.
  • the website is cited at Hunter College as an example to look at.
  • Thanks to all of you who contributed to its design and content.

We also were able to secure major infrastructure improvements

Such as

  • New air conditioning unit for a big chunk of the department including faculty offices, lecture rooms, and our adjunct space.
  • We got new computers in our teaching labs, the old ones were 5 years old.
  • Network upgrade will take place this summer, some parts of the network are about 15 years old.
  • Many classrooms and the conference room will be converted into smart rooms.

None of this would have happened without our faculty and staff who worked hard from day to day.

Individual thanks:

I now want to say a few words about my colleagues.


I would like to first thank the department of geography staff for their relentless work. In particular

  • Dana Reimer - for doing million little and big things, all at the same time, and making it possible for the department to run and the chair to do her job
  • Martha Taylee - for being always there to greet students and help in any possible way to anyone
  • Tiffany Morrison - for being friendly and cool and skillfully representing the department to everyone who walks in the office.
  • Amy Jeu - for keeping an eye on our inventory and designing our current fabulous webpage.
  • Tom Walter for being our network expert as well as W&C instructor and a GeoClub supporter for so many years
  • And Nguyen Ngoc for seamlessly running our labs and faculty computers!


I also would like to thank all my faculty colleagues for doing such a fabulous job that past year. In particular:

Sean Ahearn - for bringing tigers and motorcycles into our daily routines. You can see him and the tigers on our website.

Jochen Albrecht - for committing so much to serve the department and the college in so many ways

Frank Buonaiuto - for being fun and a committed teacher as well as a great colleague

Carson Farmer - for contributing enormously to our GIS instruction and research. Best of luck to you at the Un of Colorado, we wish you well.

Hongmian Gong - for bringing in a transportation scholarship that now funds some of our graduate students

Mohamed Ibrahim - for putting students above everything else for which they clearly reciprocate

Carsten Kessler - for developing new cool GIS courses and delivering key-note addresses in important GIS forums all over the world (the last was in Vienna, Austria).

Teodosia Manecan - for her tireless devotion to geology and cultivation of love for rocks in our students. Her latest project is a digital guide to geology in NYC and beyond. It includes walking tours in geology in such different places as Central Park, American South-West and water tunnels. The pamphlets, as she calls them, consist of stunning photos and explanation of geological marvels. Teodosia traveled with, took pictures, and did research with her wonderful husband Cornell.

Peter Marcotullio - for moving seamlessly from urban geography to biogeography and advising many capstone and MA students across many fields. This year Peter also became the Director of CISC (which is CUNY Institute for Sustainable Cities) and we wish him luck in this important leadership position.

Ines Miyares - for many years of engaged teaching, knowing Hunter better than anyone else and sharing this knowledge freely with all of us. This past fall, Ines offered for the first time our new course GEOG 250 Geographic Research Methods for undergraduate students. The undergrads did an amazing job learning to propose and implement significant research projects. Ines is really excited about how this course will impact our undergraduate program and it's a privilege - she says - to be the one teaching the course.

Wenge Ni-Meister - for combining research that uses advanced remote sensing with creating new exciting courses such as The Ecology of Central Park. The administration gladly bought tree height measuring devices called hypsometers for this course. I did not have to ask twice :)

Rupal Oza - we will miss Rupal, her wit, and feminist politics. During her sabbatical leave, she will be spending time in India researching a book project on the relationship between sexual assault, caste and Land in the agricultural state of Haryana.

Randye Rutberg - for showing an example of how one can revamp her research while on sabbatical leave. Randye spent the year at Rutgers University learning how to use global climate model output to investigate the role of the Milankovitch forcing in the oceans and glacial interglacial changes in CO2. She also joined a program called “Climate Voices” through the National Center for Atmospheric Research and participated in two speaking events that inform the community about climate change. Go Randye!

Haydee Salmun - for being a great researcher and our comrade for whom words justice and fairness have a special meaning. With colleague Frank Buonaiuto Haydee developed new graduate course in Analysis of Atmosphere and Ocean dynamics that has led to a very fruitful NEW research  project! Great job.

Bill Solecki - for leadership at many levels and relaxed attitude under any circumstances.

Karl Szekielda - for making RS and oceanography an adventure for the students.

Many thanks to our adjunct professors as well as Graduate Teaching fellows who carry an increasing teaching load in the department and play such an important role in introducing geography to our students.

Last but not the least - Best of luck to Allan Frei who is returning as a chair next year after a productive fellowship leave.


Photo slideshow:

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Photos courtesy of Brian Biscof.